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Lake Tahoe Golf
By Bob Enzel

It was mid-August in Lake Tahoe where three of us lodged comfortably in Incline Village, NV, home of Diamond Peak Ski Area.

Our intention during our 5-day visit was to play four different golf courses owned by either ski resorts or lodging specialists at the lake or within the beautiful surrounding pine forest.

In the Tahoe area it was still high season until Labor Day, but foresight got us pre-arranged tee times. The thought was to begin at the easiest course and work our way up to the more difficult. A nice plan in theory.


Our first outing was Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort Golf Club which did not fit in easily to our arrangement. After all was said and done, our worst scores were at the Northstar Golf Club. Robert Muir Graves, who designed this course must have been awed by the surrounding mountains which may lull you into a false sense of ability. The back nine did open up to a links-style of play, but the wooded landscape, the rolling greens and wavy bunkers, while picturesque were not conducive to low scores.


The following day we played the Championship Course at Incline Village, a course Robert Trent Jones, Sr., laid out with better players than us in mind. Our sixteen handicap did not exactly tear the course up. Challenging bunkers, water hazards and pin placements showed us who was boss.

Golf is a fascinating game, bringing to mind the old saw: One day you can’t do anything wrong, the next day you can’t do anything right. Whoever coined the saying, “the reason it is called golf is that all the other four letter words were taken” was no doubt a frustrated golfer who might have been playing in Tahoe.


The Mountain Course at Incline Village was not on our schedule: Wednesday was our day to salve wounds. However, a short session with renowned Director, Angie Rodriguez convinced us that missing this course would haunt us forever. Angie very kindly squeezed a tee time in for us the next day…our theoretical day off.

Angie, a former professional golfer in her own right, runs a splendid par 3-par 4 course tucked in and out of lovely smelling pine trees, up and down the mountain that squeezes in a challenging 5,200-yard course. This course can help tune your short game, but bring extra balls just in case. Anyone that cannot hit a long drive--for whatever reason--can reach all the par 3’s in one and the four par 4’s in two. A hot or windy day makes this a perfect course.


The next morning we were ready for the big time or so we thought. The course challenge was Old Greenwood, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. In addition to the Nicklaus challenge we were faced with unseasonable weather that brought in cold air and rain. A most unusual happening for mid-August in Tahoe.

Determined to play we opted to out-wait the rain and by the 14th hole we were rewarded with a little sunshine to dry things out for us. A local tournament that was to take place that day was cancelled which allowed us to virtually be the only ones on the course. It was nice to have a beautiful course all to ourselves. No one in front slowing us down and even better, no one behind pushing us to hurry. A lovely day for golf despite the ominous beginning.

We played the “three pines” tee box instead of the “four pines” to compensate for wet conditions. A difference of about 500 yards and a rating of 72.7 rather than 75.2. Even with the dampness the greens were quite fast. The Nicklaus-designed sand traps may be likened to a work of Rorschach art. But like all sand traps the idea is to look and admire but don’t experience. Always, a nice thought, but not practical.

One of the nicest starters we’ve ever encountered was pleasant and helpful; he gave us each a free course layout book, something that the Trilogy Golf Course at La Quinta, charges $6.00 for… (See article on Palm Springs Golf in The Old Greenwood Course is owned and managed by East West Partners and is marvelously maintained.

Our final outing at Martis Camp was much looked forward to. One of our group had previously played and lauded it. We were not disappointed. A more beautiful course in Tahoe is hard to find. The finishing hole is equal to, if not more spectacular than the 18th at Firestone, even though the massive lodge that welcomes golfers in the distance was still under construction.

The downside to playing this course is that it’s in a private gated community and is only open to home owners and their guests. We were guests. Should you be interested (and wealthy) in becoming a member, it’s doubtful you will find a more fulfilling setting for every member in your family. Matis Camp has it’s own connecting lift to Northstar Ski Resort and while it does not have it’s own ski trails it is a patch above the Yellowstone Club at Big Sky, Montana. We were guided through the course by one of its primary owners, who can drive a mean golf ball and was also a pleasant foursome partner.

Tom Fazio designed the lovely golf course. He made it a fair test of ability; a thinking person’s course. It was possible to score well, if you played intelligently, but a wrong decision or an errant shot left you scratching your head as to how best to recover. Some holes required playing short as the better part of valor, i.e., better to take an extra stroke at the onset then add two or three on bravado.

Beautifully manicured greens with a seismometer rating of 10 1/2. Miss a lightly-touched two-footer down hill and you may play a 15 footer on the return. Pin placements on the green can easily make the difference between a 27 putt outing to a 40 or higher performance. It’s one heck of a golf course; A chance to play it should never be turned down.

These descriptions of the five courses are meant only as a guide, not as comparables.
Some public, some private, some short, some long…all were fun. In order of our play:

Rating Slope Yards

Northstar at Tahoe Resort Golf Course (Tournament) 72.4 140 6946

Championship Course, Incline Village (Black) 74.1 144 7106

Mountain Course, Incline Village (Back) 58.9 104 5237

Old Greenwood (4 Pines) 75.2 140 7518

Martis Camp (Medal) 75.9 141 7751

The Tahoe area has many fine golf courses that await us at a future date. An on-line preview at will give you choices and location.
The golf season gives way to the ski season in the Lake Tahoe region. Between Labor Day and the end of September is a good time to squeeze in a less expensive tee time.

Check out rates and opening/closing schedules by clicking to:

Concentration needed for this picturesque Martis Camp hole





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Last modified: February 02, 2009    Copyright 2012-2018